My Tennessee Valentine, Part 2: Three Inspirations for Finding Amanda Wingfield

HOPPER_1939_New_York_Movie

New York Movie. 1939. Oil on canvas.
by Edward Hopper
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, U.S.A.

 

One of the fun things about exploring the world of the play is finding inspiration to bring it to life. Chloe Burton, Dustin Summan, Jordan Wolfe, David Cobine, Patty Glen and I have shared our impressions of other productions, biographical details from Tennessee Williams’ life, acting challenges and favorite lines. There are some good biographies out there on Williams for those so inclined. And then, of course, there is the play itself which rewards the reader over and over again.

Here are other three things I’ve taken inspiration from in preparing to play Amanda:

When I think of the world of The Glass Menagerie, I think of Edward Hopper’s paintings from the 1920s and 1930s. In one, we get a woman sitting up in bed alone bathed in the uncompromising light of morning. In another, famous image, a couple sitting at the counter at an all-night diner, a way station for lost souls. Reflecting Tom’s hunger for escape at the movies, Hopper even gave us a few scenes from 1930s movie houses where fantasy and reality collide. I’ve picked one here that could be similar to the kind of stumbled upon poetry that Tom escaped into every night.

 

When working on a show, I usually find a song that helps me connect with my character. Music that tends to be private, idiosyncratic, and good for blasting in the car on the way home from rehearsal or listening to as part of my pre-show ritual. This time around, it is Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work” a song from her 1989 album, The Sensual World, that gives me the chills. I can imagine the words coming straight from Amanda along with a howl as she pleads for just “one moment more” with those she loves in the hope that maybe this time she can do the right thing. Just because it’s futile doesn’t make it any less real.

 

Finally, I turn to contemporary poet, Mary Oliver, another writer who has written so eloquently about that life-defining moment of when one must choose to stay or go.

The Journey

by Mary Oliver

 

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice—

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do—

determined to save

the only life you could save.

room-in-new-york

Room in New York. 1932. Oil on canvas
by Edward Hopper
Sheldon Museum of Art

 

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
September 15-16 & 22-23 at 7:30pm, Sept. 24 at 2:00pm
By special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service, Inc.
Directed by David Cobine
1003 East Main Street
Richmond, IN 47374
Tickets are $18. Box office: (765) 962-1816 or online

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